East Side Neighborhoods Create Vision for Future Sustainability

Taubman Charrette Featured in Detroit Free Press

Taubman College on WDET

Making one of Detroit’s most historic and diverse districts economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable is the focus of an intense visioning exercise the weekend of February 6-8 involving architectural students and faculty from top local architecture and planning schools.

The three-day charrette, or planning session, is being conducted by The Villages Community Development Corp. (CDC), a 501c3 non-profit group that works to enhance the economic and social life of its east-side area. A Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan grant of $35,000 supports the planning session.

Comprising such historic neighborhoods as Indian Village, West Village, East Village, Islandview, the Gold Coast, and the Berry Subdivision, the Villages ranks among Detroit’s most economically, socially and racially diverse districts.
“In many ways, the Villages district is Detroit,” said Kim Clayson, president of the Villages CDC board of directors. “Here we find historic architecture, beautiful views of the Detroit River and Belle Isle, and a mix of people and incomes unmatched anywhere in the city.”

Students and faculty from Lawrence Technological University’s School of Architecture, the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture and the University of Michigan Taubman School of Architecture and Planning will participate in the charrette, joined by local professionals. The students, faculty, and professionals will divide up into several teams to design concepts that will aid in future planning by the Villages CDC.

Many charrettes focus strictly on increasing urban density through new development. But in a unique feature, the Villages charrette will target non-traditional land uses including urban agriculture, greenways, and bicycle lanes to make use of vacant land in the district and to increase the environmental sustainability of everyday life.

“The future of Detroit calls for a greener, more sustainable lifestyle in urban neighborhoods,” said Sheu-Jane Gallagher, a Villages CDC board member and chair of its charrette committee. “By focusing our participants on these non-traditional land uses, we hope to educate ourselves, and the wider city, about these potential solutions for Detroit.”

The charrette will begin on Friday, Feb. 6, with an introductory bus tour of the Villages district for all participants. Then students, faculty, and professional advisers will retreat to the Gleaners Community Food Bank, for around-the-clock discussions and designing sessions. The teams will make final presentations to the Villages CDC board and guests at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8, at the Gleaners Community Food Bank. Prior to the charrette, the Villages CDC is engaging key community stakeholders such as Adult Well-Being Services, Capuchin Soup Kitchen Earthworks Urban Farm, and Detroit Waldorf School to gather important research that will help inform the students and ensure actionable results.

“Many communities are more or less in the dark when trying to plan for the future of their districts,” Clayson said. “The charrette will illuminate several possible futures for us and help us take some big steps toward that change.”
Once completed, the work of the students and their advisers will enhance efforts by the Villages CDC board to work with the City of Detroit, foundations, and other stakeholders in future planning and development of the district.

About the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan:
The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is a permanent community endowment built by gifts from thousands of individuals and organizations committed to the future of southeast Michigan. The Foundation works to improve the region’s quality of life by connecting those who care with causes that matter. The Foundation supports a wide variety of activities benefiting education, arts and culture, health, human services, community development, and civic affairs. Since its inception, the Foundation has distributed more than $324 million through more than 30,000 grants to nonprofit organizations throughout Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Washtenaw, St. Clair, and Livingston counties. For more information, please visit

About the Villages CDC:
A 501(c)(3) organization that was formed in 2006 to accelerate economic development within the Villages neighborhoods, the Villages Community Development Corporation (CDC) includes representation from Indian Village, West Village, Islandview Village, East Village, Berry Subdivision, and the Gold Coast (riverfront) communities. For more information, visit

For more information about the charrette, please contact Kirsten Ussery of the Villages of Detroit at 313-348-5777 or